Mayor Rick Kriseman has called for a review of the management of the St. Petersburg water resources department.
Kriseman’s call comes in the wake of accusations by water resources employee Craven Askew that city officials knew closing the Albert Whitted sewer plant could cause overflows and the subsequent dumping of wastewater into Tampa Bay.
Kriseman issued this statement late Friday afternoon:
“Included in Mr. Askew’s email is a consultant’s report that I believe has never been shared publicly or with my office or with City Council. As such, I have asked our legal and human resources departments to work with an independent firm to learn why this report has only recently surfaced and to conduct a thorough management review of Water Resources. I demand accountability to me, to city council, and to the citizens we serve.”
Askew claimed whistleblower status — which would protect him from firing or other retaliation — when he filed his complaint Thursday. The gist of the complaint was that city officials knew the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility, where the Albert Whitted wastewater was directed, was not capable of handling a heavy rain event. Yet, knowing that, Askew alleged, city officials closed Albert Whitted without making the necessary improvements.
In the complaint, Askew referred to a study that recommended improvements be made and completed before diverting the flow from Albert Whitted to Southwest.
“The city experienced high weather in August 2015, which caused over 30 million gallons spilled at Southwest, Clam Bayou, and Tampa Bay due to Albert Whitted shutdown,” Askew wrote. “We have since then had a rain event in June 2016 and September and August 2016 which discharged estimated sewage of 80 million gallons into Tampa Bay.”
Askew said he had told city management staff about his concerns in July.